Coppin State, the defending Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champion, and UMBC, the preseason pick to win the East Coast tTC Conference championship, will get a firsthand look at each other when they meet in the third annual Big Four women's basketball tournament at Towson State this weekend.
They will start tomorrow night's action, followed by Loyola and Towson State.
The Towson Center program opens tonight with UMBC meeting Loyola and Coppin State opposing Towson State.
At UMBC, three starters return from a 17-11 team that led the ECC much of the season, then was upset in the tournament quarterfinals. Senior Angel Webb (14.7 points, 8.0 rebounds per game) is the preseason Player of the Year selection.
Coppin State (17-11) has holdover starters Laura Medley, a 6-foot-2 senior center, and LaShawn Scott, a junior guard.
Towson State (8-19) and Loyola (4-24), each loaded with experience, expect to improve. Towson State has four starters among seven letter-winners back, including senior guards Tara Rottet, the leading scorer at 14.9 ppg, and Amy Green. Loyola has four starters among its nine holdovers, led by senior Jennifer Young and senior guard Mia Vendlinski, an outstanding sixth player.
Maryland (17-13) has been tabbed No. 15 in the Associated Press poll, and coach Chris Weller will use this as a motivating force, although she says this will be her finest -- and deepest -- team in 16 years at College Park.
Four starters return, including the front line of senior rebound leader Dafne Lee (Walbrook), scoring leader Jessie Hicks and Bonnie Rimkus, last season's Atlantic Coast Conference Rookie of the Year.
Elsewhere in Division I, Morgan State (6-20) has seven returnees, including senior guard Tracy Lewis.
At Mount St. Mary's (17-11), Vanessa Blair, last year's Northeast Conference Player of the Year, will be the hub of the offense.
Guard Angie Dobbs (Perry Hall), a 21.7 scorer, returns at the Naval Academy (16-8), which steps up to Division I from Division II.
Three seniors, headed by 5-9 forward Angela Fowler, are expected to be the leaders at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (16-13).
Division II member Bowie State (4-20) vows to be more competitive under new coach Frances Blackburn.
Frostburg State draws the nod as the state's top Division III team, with three starters back from last year's 26-2 NCAA tournament entry.
Among the other schools, Johns Hopkins (17-7) will rebuild with veteran guards Tracy Williams and Kerri McTiernan.
Junior guard Renie Amoss should ease the way at Goucher (11-10) for first-year coach Noelle Navarro, and the College of Notre Dame has seven returnees, including sophomore Toyah Houck.
At Salisbury State (12-14), three starters are expected to mesh with new talent and a new running style; St. Mary's (1-20) also returns three starters; and at Western Maryland (11-12), 5-7 senior Debbie Shockley will build on numerous records.